In last Friday’s weekly wrap up for Teach the Vote, ATPE reported on serious testing glitches that occurred last week as schools were administering STAAR tests to students. Some students’ answers were lost during the test, which caused the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to release two news statements about the problems. TEA advised in the second of those two statements last week that districts would not be required to retest those students who were affected by the technical malfunction, leaving retesting decisions to be made at each district’s local discretion.
Today, Commissioner of Education Mike Morath provided teachers, students, and parents with some important updates as part of his comments to the State Board of Education. Approximately 14,200 students were affected by last week’s problems with the tests. Of those students, many were special education students taking the STAAR-A test. Morath also acknowledged that there had been issues with some of the written materials sent to districts ahead of the test, both errors within the documents and some shipping errors.
The commissioner also gave some idea of what TEA is doing moving forward. First, he reaffirmed the agency’s commitment to limit any damage done by these technical issues. He said the agency would be removing affected students from the calculation of each district’s accountability rating, and the students’ STAAR report cards would be amended to reflect the error. The commissioner added that he does not have regulatory authority to waive the high stakes graduation requirement associated with any end-of-course (EOC) exams that were affected. Morath also noted that voluntary retakes school districts may have chosen to pursue at their own discretion have been completed or nearly completed. Lastly, the commissioner addressed the state’s test vendor, ETS. He expressed that the issues last week were a breach of the vendor’s contractual performance standards, would result in a financial penalty to ETS, and might also trigger a look into rebidding the contract next year, especially if there are any significant issues with the May administration of STAAR tests.
On a related note, the commissioner also announced at today’s SBOE meeting a change in plans regarding the recording and timing of testing breaks that has recently caused significant angst amongst teachers/test administrators. Morath shared that the timing of student breaks will be discontinued for the May STAAR administration. Test administrators will still be recording the total amount of time each student takes to complete the test, in 15 minute intervals, but they will not be required to record any breaks (bathroom or otherwise) that students take during the test.
UPDATE as of April 11, 2016: Today, the Texas Education Agency sent school districts the following communication regarding monitoring of student breaks during STAAR tests:
SUBJECT: Recording Break Time on STAAR Assessments
April 11, 2016
To the District and ESC Testing Coordinators Addressed:
The purpose of this email is to notify you that districts will not be required to record the total break time for students taking the May 2016 State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR®) assessments. Test administrators will not need to mark the total break time columns found in the AGENCY USE field on the student answer document. Average break time recorded during the March administrations will be factored into the time-to-test data from the May administrations.
Test administrators will still need to record the total testing time in the AGENCY USE field on the student answer document. For single subject tests, the test administrator will mark column A and will leave column B blank. For two subject tests, the test administrator will mark columns A and C on the student answer document before it is submitted for scoring and will leave columns B and D blank.
District personnel will be notified when the revised Recording Time-to-Test Information on Answer Documents Appendices in the 2016 STAAR Test Administrator Manuals are posted to the TEA website at https://tea.texas.gov/student.assessment/staar/manuals/.